Southampton professors lead development of Government’s one-stop shop for data
University of Southampton Professors, Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Nigel Shadbolt, have played a key role in the development of the new data.gov.uk web site launched today by the Government.
data.gov.uk contains more than 2500 sets of data from across government about all aspects of our lives, ranging from information about education and traffic, to tax and crime. All of the data is non-personal and has been released in a format that can be reused by any individual or business to create innovative new software tools, such as applications that provide information on house prices, local schools, amenities and services, or access to local hospitals.
The site has been developed in just six months, after the two professors from the School of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton were given a special role by the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, to help transform public access to Government information. The initiative was intended to drive cultural change in Whitehall towards the publication of all non-personal data held by Government departments and agencies.
Commenting in June 2009, Professor Shadbolt said: “The vision is that citizens, consumers and government can create, re-use and distribute public information in ways that add value, support transparency, facilitate new services and increase efficiency. We believe we can achieve this with the emergence of a new generation of Web techniques and standards.”
Over the last six months Professor Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web and Chair of Computer Science at the University, and Professor Shadbolt have worked closely with a panel of technical and delivery experts to oversee the development and implementation of data.gov.uk, in conjunction with the Minister for Digital Britain, Stephen Timms MP, who launched the new single access-point web site today (21 January).
The beta version of the site was released in September and since then developers have been testing it and using the data to create applications that bring together information from different sources. According to Professor Shadbolt, this is only the beginning: “It is a job that is never going to be entirely finished,” he told the BBC today. “Government is always collecting data.”
He added: “Making more public sector information and data available is crucial if we are to exploit the innovative talent available to us in this country to produce really outstanding applications that have social and economic value.”
Sir Tim Berners-Lee has long been an advocate of the release of raw data from public sources that can then be linked in imaginative ways for re-use by citizens. He commented: “Making public data available for re-use is about increasing accountability and transparency and letting people create new, innovative ways of using it. Government data should be a public resource. By releasing it, we can unlock new ideas for delivering public services, help communities and society work better, and let talented entrepreneurs and engineers create new businesses and services.”
The significance of today’s launch was highlighted by Professor Shadbolt: “Today marks an important step forward in the work the Prime Minister asked us to lead. It gives data to the public and sets the groundwork for further progress. Over the next few weeks and months we will build on this by adding more functions. We are already working with departments, agencies and local authorities to release even more data all the time.”
In December 2009 Professor Shadbolt was asked by the Prime Minister to lead a panel of experts who will oversee the release of local public data, ensuring that it is linked effectively across relevant agencies, authorities and government departments.